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  On Porpoise 2002 #1: Greatness
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Hi, Folks. It's me again. I know you haven't heard this from me in a while, and I know that some of you may have thought you'd never hear it again, but I thought that now might be a good time to resume writing "On Porpoise".

If there's anyone left out there who reads my stuff but doesn't know what "On Porpoise" is, well .... it's my personal column about the Miami Dolphins in which I just say whatever I like.

You see, when I write up my training camp reports, game previews or summaries or just about anything else, I try to maintain some sense of professionalism and detachment about the team and provide my readers with factual information and as much objective commentary (tinged with optimism) as I can muster.

None of that applies to "On Porpoise".

Oh, I will do my best to talk about some real aspect of Miami Dolphins football, but don't expect me to keep my cool when something bothers me or to restrain my enthusiasm when I'm really excited about something.

Because that's not what "On Porpoise" is for. "On Porpoise" is my personal soapbox where anything goes.

This is the first edition of "On Porpoise" that I've written since I had the good fortune to become a proud father. For those of you who are parents, you probably have a pretty good idea why I took a sabbatical from writing just after my baby girl was born.

For those of you who don't have children, I can't explain it to you. You'll just have to trust me when I say that love for my daughter, combined with lack of sleep and awe at the whole concept of raising a child (who me? act like an ADULT????!) turned my Cerebrum to guacamole within about 24 hours of her birth - which is an amazing story, in its own right.

One of the odd things about becoming a parent is that your higher brain functions turn to mush almost instantly, but your body compensates by having your reflexes improve dramatically.

Chris Chambers diving for a pass has nothing on a father diving for his child as she dives off the sofa....

But I feel as though I'm ready to resume writing "On Porpoise" for the 3 of you that want to read it (OK Dad, you can stop bugging me now...) and so here is the first edition of the new millennium.

So, as the 2002 season opens, what should we talk about? The quarterback controversy? (Don't fool yourselves, folks - there IS one - or, at least there will be as soon as Jay throws his first pick). The offensive line? (will they be offensive or merely... offensive?) Prince Adewale Ogunleye?

Ricky Williams?

How about the feel-good story of the year - at least so far - Robert Edwards? As other writers have put it - you'd have to have a heart of obsidian not to be cheering for Robert Edwards.

Well, as much as I'd like to talk about all those things (and hopefully, I will eventually get a chance to), what I really want to talk about is not the 2002 Dolphins.

What I want to talk about is the 1972 Dolphins, the greatest team in the history of the NFL.

The reason I want to talk about the '72 Dolphins is that I saw the ESPN special on the '72 team hosted by Dan Dierdorf back in June and it kept Phins.com alive.

At the time, I was thinking seriously about selling Phins.com and giving up this one-man reporting operation. But watching that show reminded me of what the Miami Dolphins have been about since the beginning and I realized that I couldn't give up my commitment to the Dolphins, the keepers of the legacy of the greatest team in football history - the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

Now sure, that's hokey. But being a fan is hokey. If I wanted serious discourse and somber discussion, I'd turn on "Wall Street Week" - and then fall asleep.

But watching the show about a group of players who accomplished what no one before or since has accomplished filled me with pride. And I realized that I wasn't ready to give up Phins.com.

So, here I am again, thanks to the '72 Miami Dolphins.

And then, a couple of weeks ago, a group of sports writers at ESPN announced their pick for the greatest team in history and they picked the '85 Bears. Their thoughts about going the '72 team going undefeated?

"Ultimately, it's a thin argument".

Going undefeated is a "thin" argument? Permit me to respond by quoting Bill Parcells, back when he was the Patriots' head coach. He was asked by a reporter if he thought that the Patriots were better than their record. He responded by saying "No, we're exactly as good as our record".

He went on to explain that since winning was the only thing that counted, it didn't matter how fast, how tough or how strong the players were if they didn't win. So no team was "better" or "worse" than their record.

So, to ESPN I say - the '72 Dolphins were exactly as good as their record - they were perfect. No other team has ever been perfect. And nothing else really matters.

But for those who wish to nitpick the details, let's talk about some details.

The 1972 Miami Dolphins had the number 1 offense and defense, in terms of yards gained and yards allowed. They also lead the league in both points scored and points allowed. They were so dominant running the ball, they had 2 1000 yard runners in a 14 game season, both of whom averaged over 5 yards per carry for the year.

The team averaged 4.8 yards per carry running the ball and averaged over 200 yards PER GAME in rushing.

And while the passing game was overshadowed by the run, the Dolphins' top 3 receivers, Paul Warfield, Howard Twilley and Marlin Briscoe EACH averaged over 18 yards per catch. Hall-of-Famer Paul Warfield averaged 20.9 yards per catch.

The 'No-Name' defense, for their part, allowed an average of just 12.2 points per game by opponents.

The team played 9 regular season games and 1 playoff game with a backup quarterback, after Bob Griese was injured in game 5 of the regular season. In those days, there was no such thing as home field advantage in the playoffs and the Dolphins had to go on the road to Pittsburgh to play the AFC Championship game.

And, of course, they won the SuperBowl. Not just won it, but dominated it.

The counter argument has been that Miami didn't play a tough schedule. But at least part of the reason that Miami's opponents had a low winning percentage is that they had to play Miami. Sometimes twice.

And of the games that Miami played that year, only 3 of 14 ended with scores that were within a touchdown. So Miami did beat it's opponents convincingly, as a good team does when it faces bad teams.

So the "strength of schedule" argument is, ultimately, thinner than Calista Flockhart.

But to me, the bottom line is about what "greatness" really means. Does being "great" just mean being really, really good or does it mean something more?

Because if it just means being really good, then the 1973 Dolphins have more of a claim to greatness than the '72 Dolphins. Fans, knowledgeable sportswriters and the players themselves generally agree that the 1973 Dolphin team was actually a better team than their 1972 predecessors. And they're probably right.

But I believe that greatness is about more than just being really good. It's about more than even being the best in your chosen endeavor.

Greatness, after all is said and done, is about transcending the ordinary boundaries of what's possible and doing something that, under ordinary circumstances, would be impossible. It's about taking the game beyond it's normal limits and showing the world something new... about accomplishing something that no one, before or since, has ever accomplished.

Greatness is unique. Multiple teams have ended the season with just 1 regular season loss and won a SuperBowl. No other team in the entire history of the NFL has ever gone undefeated through an entire season and won the championship.

And greatness is timeless. The achievements of greatness last well beyond the time in which they were accomplished. Merely being the best team in any given year is not timeless, if only because the players and the game have changed so much over the history of the NFL that comparing, say, the 1965 Packers to the 2001 Patriots is the ultimate in "apples to oranges" comparisons.

If you could somehow transport the 1965 Packers to this year, most of the teams in the NFL would squash them on the playing field. But that does not diminish their greatness.

So to pick the greatest team of all time, you must find a team that is truly unique - that has accomplished something that no other team in the history of the league has accomplished. Otherwise, the selection has no meaning.

Now, if you want to argue about which was the "best" team of all time, there are a lot to choose from. The '78 Steelers, the '73 Dolphins, the '89 49ers, the '85 Bears, the '65 Packers... the list could go on and on.

But it you want to know which NFL team was the Greatest team of all time, there can only be one choice - the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

Now, for the start of the 2002 season, I don't have much to say that I haven't already said in my game summary on Phins.com. The victory over the Lions was impressive, but I was pleased to hear the comments from the players and coach Wannstedt following the game that showed they knew they had a long way to go.

For it's going to be a long season and most of the games won't go like Sunday's game. Still, you can bet that the Dolphins will do their best to show us all that Sunday was not an exception and that they crushed the Lions....

... on Porpoise.

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